Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

The Rise of Dual Screen Apps, courtesy of Apple TV

Article by Jeremy Allaire  mashable.com

Dual-screen apps are a new phenomena, enabled by the advent of wireless technologies that allow for effortless pairing of a PC, tablet or smartphone with a TV. They are changing how people are interacting and “consuming” content within apps. For developers this creates many new opportunities to provide better experiences for their users, but it requires thinking about dual-screen setups from the start as well as new tools.

The opportunity for dual-screen apps is huge. And it’s more than just watching a video or playing a game: Dual-screen apps have the potential to transform the office meeting room, the classroom, the retail store, the hospital, and really any other context where people are interacting around content and information and where that information would benefit from rendering and display on a large screen such as a TV monitor.

To better understand this concept, it’s necessary to step back and reconsider the nature of how we write software and the user experience model for software.

The Evolution From Single Screen

Today, the predominant user-experience model for software and applications online is a single screen. We browse web applications on a desktop PC, mobile browser or tablet browser and interact with and consume content and applications on that screen. It is very much a single, individual user task. Likewise, we install apps onto these devices and consume and interact with information, perform tasks, make purchases, etc. through these apps. Again, this is a solitary single individual task.

As a result, when software creators plan their applications, they are typically designed and developed with this single user, single-screen concept in mind.

Dual-screen apps change all of that by shifting the software and user experience model from one user to potentially many, and from one screen (PC/phone/tablet) to two screens (phone/tablet and TV monitor). From a software development and user-experience perspective, the large monitor (which is the true second screen — versus the standard concept that considers the tablet as the second screen) becomes an open computing surface where one can render any form of application functionality, information, data and content.

SEE ALSO: Is This the Second-Screen TV App That Finally Goes Mainstream?

Importantly, designers and developers need to shed the concept that “TVs” are for rendering video, and instead think about TVs as large monitors on which they can render applications, content and interactivity that’s supported by a touch-based tablet application.

The Social Computing Surface

While we have the greatest affinity for large monitors as fixtures of the living room, increasingly flat-screen monitors are a becoming a ubiquitous part of our social fabric. In fact, large monitors often sit at the center of any social setting. In the home, these large monitors provide a social surface for those sharing the living room space. Increasingly, monitors are a common part of nearly every business meeting room space — not for watching video, but for projecting shared content and business data and presentations that support business and organization collaboration.

Likewise, monitors are in medical and hospital settings providing visual information to patients. They are increasingly in nearly every classroom, whether through a projector or an actual TV monitor and support the presentation of information that is needed for a collection of students. Large monitors are increasingly ubiquitous in retail settings as well.

The key concept here is that this pervasive adoption of TV monitors is the tip of the spear in creating a social computing surface in the real world. Forget about social networks that connect people across their individual, atomized computing devices — the real social world is groups of people in a shared space (living room, office, classroom, store, etc.) interacting around information and data on a shared screen.

Until very recently, the way in which these TV monitors could be leveraged was limited to connecting a PC through an external display connector to a projector or directly to a TV. The recent breakthrough that Apple has fostered and advanced more than any other tech company is AirPlay and associated dual-screen features in iOS and Apple TV.

Specifically, Apple has provided the backbone for dual screen apps, enabling:

  • Any iOS device (and OS X Mountain Lion-enabled PCs) to broadcast its screen onto a TV. Think of this as essentially a wireless HDMI output to a TV. If you haven’t played with AirPlay mirroring features in iOS and Apple TV, give it a spin. It’s a really exciting development.
  • A set of APIs and an event model for enabling applications to become “dual-screen aware” (e.g. to know when a device has a TV screen it can connect to, and to handle rendering information, data and content onto both the touch screen and the TV screen).

With the existing Apple TV unit sales already outselling the Xbox in the most recent quarter, we can see a world that goes from approximately 5 million dual-screen-capable Apple TVs to potentially 15-20 million in the next couple of years, and eventually to 30-50 million as new and improved versions of the Apple TV companion device come to market.

As a result, it’s an incredible time to experiment with this fundamental shift in computing, software and user experience, to embrace a world where the Tablet is the most important personal productivity device, and the TV is a rich and powerful surface for rendering content and applications.

How Dual-Screen Apps Will Work

As we rethink the TV as a computing surface for apps, it’s really helpful to have some ideas on what we’re talking about. Below are a series of hypothetical examples of what is possible today and of course what will be even bigger as these new dual screen run-times proliferate.

Buying a House: Imagine you’re looking into buying a house. You open your tablet app from a reputable home-listing service and perform a search using criteria that you care about and begin adding potential fits to a list of houses you’d like to explore. When you select a specific house, the app detects you’re connected to an Apple TV and launches a second screen on the TV that provides rich and large visual displays about the house — HD-quality photos and contextual information about the house. Here, the power of dual screen is the fact that you and your spouse can sit in the living room and explore a house together without crouching over a computer or tablet on someone’s lap, and the house can be presented with HD-quality media and contextual information.

Buying a Car: Imagine launching the BMW app on your tablet and deciding to both learn about car models and configure a car — like buying a house, often a “social” decision between partners. On the TV, the app renders a high-quality rendition of the car. As you explore the car’s features from your tablet, associated media (photos, video and contextual metadata) render onto the large TV in front of you. As you configure your car using your tablet, it updates a visual build of the car on the large screen, providing an inline HD video for specific features.

Kids Edutainment: Looking to introduce your three-year old to key cognitive development concepts? Launch a learning app where the child interacts with the tablet application and sees visual information, animation and other content on the TV screen. Their touches on the tablet instantly produce rich and relevant content on the TV screen. Learning to count? Feed cookies over AirPlay to Cookie Monster on the TV who eats and counts with you. Learning about concepts like near and far? Tap the table to make a character move closer and away from you. Build a character on the tablet and watch the character emerge on the TV screen.

SEE ALSO: Designing for Context on Multiple Devices

Sales Reporting: As a sales manager, you walk into your team conference room with a TV monitor mounted on the wall. You kick open your Salesforce.com tablet app on your tablet and begin filtering and bringing up specific reports on your tablet, and with the touch of a button you push unique visual reports onto the shared surface of the conference room TV. Here, the sales manager wants control of the searches and filters they have access to and only wants to render the charts and reports that are needed for the whole team to see.

Board Games: Imagine playing Monopoly with your family in the living room — one or two or maybe even three touch devices present (phones, iPod touches, iPads). Each player has their inventory of properties and money visible on their device. The app passes control to each user as they play. On the TV screen is the Monopoly “board” with a dynamic visual that updates as users play — the movement of players, the building up of properties, etc.

The Classroom: A teacher walks into a classroom with an Apple TV connected to a HDMI-capable projector that projects onto a wall or screen. From their tablet, they pull up an application that is designed to help teach chemistry and the periodic table — they can control which element to display up on the screen, and the TV provides rich information, video explanations, etc. The app is designed to provide ‘public quiz’ functionality where the TV display shows a question, presumably related to material just reviewed or from homework, students raise their hand to answer and then the answer and explanation is displayed.

Doctor’s Office: You are meeting with your doctor to go over test results from an MRI scan. The doctor uses his or her tablet to bring up your results, picks visuals to throw onto the TV monitor in the room, then uses his or her finger to highlight key areas and talk to you about they’re seeing.

Retail Electronics Store: You’re at a Best Buy and interested in buying a new high-quality digital camera. A sales specialist approaches you with tablet in hand and asks you a few questions about what you’re interested in while tapping those choices into their tablet app. From there, it brings up on a nearby TV display a set of options of cameras — based on further probing, they drill into a specific camera choices which brings up a rich visual with a video overview of the specific camera that you’re interested in.

Consuming News: A major revolution has just broken out in a nation across the planet. Time has captured incredible audio, photos and video of the events. You and your friends sit down in front of the TV to learn more. You open the Time Magazine tablet app and bring up a special digital edition about the revolution. From the tablet, you flip through and render onto the TV rich HD-quality photographs, listen to first hand audio accounts (accompanied by photos) and watch footage from the events. The app renders a huge visual timeline of the events that led up to the revolution. It’s an immersive media experience that can be easily shared by friends and family in the living room.

Consuming Video: Last but not least, of course, dual-screen apps will be essential to any app that is about consuming video — whether a news or magazine app, a vertical website (think Cars.com, BabyCenter.com, AllRecipies.com, etc.), or of course a catch-up TV app from a TV network or show that you care about. You open the app on your table to explore what to watch, and when you’re ready to watch the show instantly pops onto your TV in gorgeous HD quality, and the tablet app becomes your remote control and presents relevant contextual information about the video, episode or what have you.

The Coming Dual-Screen Revolution

This is such a groundbreaking approach to apps and software we expect lots of others to try and emulate what Apple is doing. Already, Microsoft is promoting the ability to use its Surface Tablet in conjunction with apps built for the Xbox. Samsung has introduced features in its tablets and TVs to enable easy media sharing from your tablet or phone onto a Samsung Smart TV, and surely Google will follow suit with similar features to AirPlay in the Android OS. Apple is still early in deploying this technology — it’s sometimes flaky and a little bit hidden from end-user view — but I expect major changes in the coming months and years.

Virtually every application that exists on the web and phones and tablets likely has a dual-screen use case. Simply put, Web and app designers and developers need to imagine a world where the tablet and TV are a single run-time for their applications which each screen providing distinct value for the user controlling the app and the user consuming rich media and information on a large display. Sometimes this is just one person (like picking and watching a show or playing a game or learning something), but crucially and very often I believe that these apps will be designed with multiple users — and a social context — in mind.

Jeremy Allaire is CEO and founder of Brightcove, a global provider of cloud-content services that offers a family of products and developer tools used to publish and distribute professional digital media.

Competing for Gamers’ Hearts and Minds

Video game sales failed to live up to high hopes in December, with total industry sales falling 21 percent to $3.99 billion from $5.07 billion a year ago.

For the year, game sales were $17.02 billion, down 8 percent from $18.59 billion a year ago, according to market researcher NPD Group.

The poor performance of video game sales in physical retail stores masks what’s really happening.

Gamers are shifting their purchases to online, social and mobile forms of gaming — dubbed digital gaming — while the retail side is shrinking fast.

The growth in digital isn’t quite big enough to offset the shrinking retail numbers.

In December, hardware sales were down 28 percent while software was down 14 percent.

Full told, the estimated total consumer spending on games includes physical video and retail games, used games, game rentals, subscriptions, full-game digital downloads, social network games, downloadable content, and mobile games. Not counting hardware, this had estimated sales of $16.3 to $16.6 billion in 2011, down about 2 percent or so from a year ago.

Hardware sales were down 11 percent for the year, as were accessories. Software was down 6 percent. New physical retail sales of portable, console and PC games were $9.3 billion in 2011, down 8 percent from $10.1 billion in 2010. Sales grew for used games, full-game digital downloads, downloadable content, and mobile gaming apps.

“Overall industry results are not entirely surprising given that we are on the back end of the current console lifecycle, combined with the continued digital evolution of gaming,” said Anita Frazier, analyst at the NPD Group. “Core gamers continue to be engaged and spend on established franchises across both the digital and physical format using multiple devices for different gaming occasions.”

Shed added, “Our overall estimate of the market continues to point toward the increased imperative for deeper visibility into digital distribution than is available today, not only in the U.S. but globally.”

NPD is working with research company EEDAR to try to come up with more accurate numbers for global digital and physical game sales worldwide.

For the full year, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 was the best-selling game, and it took the top honors in December. Just Dance 3 from Ubisoft was No. 2, followed by Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim from Bethesda Softworks, Battlefield 3 from Electronic Arts, and Madden NFL2012.

During the year, Microsoft said it sold 1.7 million Xbox 360 consoles in December and it was the top console seller in 2011. Microsoft also said it outside the second-place player by more than 2.7 million units. It captured about 49 percent of consumer retail spending at $6.7 billion in sales for 2011. Of that, $2.1 billion was spent on accessories such as Microsoft’s Kinect motion-sensing system.

Microsoft said it has sold 66 million Xbox 360s, has 40 million Xbox Live members, and has sold more than 18 million Kinect sensors. Microsoft said it ended the year with 40 percent share of the console hardware market.

Sony said it sold 6.5 million PlayStation 3 consoles in the holiday season.

source: http://dailybitenews.com/?p=7011

Top 50 Channels on Youtube revealed

ComScore Inc., which measures Web traffic, gave a sneak peek of its rankings of the biggest players on Google’s YouTube several weeks ago.

Today the firm released the full ranking of video-content “channels” on the world’s No. 1 video site. Some highlights: No fewer than 997 YouTube video creators get at least 100,000 viewers per month on their channels, comScore said. (Click here to see the top 50 channels.)

Some well-known names were among the top 50 in terms of number of viewers, including theAssociated Press (5.7 million), Discovery Communications (2.8 million), the BBC (2.2 million), and MovieClips.com (1.8 million). Also on the list: pioneers of original Internet video such asRevision3 (6.6 million) and comedians including Andy Samberg’s The Lonely Island (3.3 million).

The biggest name you may not have heard of: Machinima, which creates 24 shows about video games and other content of interest to young men. It also produces live-action series with high production values, including sci-fi mystery show “RCVR” and zombie thriller “Bite Me.” The Machinima channel recently feature Warner Bros.’ Mortal Kombat: Legacy, the first episode of which has gotten 14.3 million views.

Machinima’s channel, started in 2006, ranked third in August with 17.7 million viewers, comScore said. More importantly, it kept the average viewer watching videos for more than 70 minutes.

ComScore’s rankings “help with the advertising world,” said Allen Debevoise, chief executive of Machinima, which has 120 employees and is based in West Hollywood. “When advertisers look at numbers that are superior to those of cable TV, it starts to bring attention to it,” he said.

As previously reported in the Wall Street Journal, YouTube is looking to spawn dozens of Machinimas for different interest areas, such as Hollywood gossip or sports, and it’s willing to pay multimillion-dollar advances to content creators to do so, people familiar with the matter have said.

Some of the other YouTube channels in the top 1,000 include singer Rebecca Black, of “Friday” fame, who checks in at no. 70 with 1.3 million visitors last month. At no. 880 is Let’s Make it Up!, which gives tips to girls on makeup and hair styles, garnering 119,000 viewers, nearly as many as alternative rock band Radiohead’s channel (146,000 viewers, ranked 742th).

What about Google’s own channel, where it hosts promotional videos for its services? That channel got 606,000 viewers last month, earning a ranking of 157, just above the channel for PBS, which came in at no. 175 with 553,000 viewers.

source: Wall Street Journal

Netflix’s DVD Split Is Yet Another Self-Inflicted Wound

Update: 10-10-11 from the New York Times, Brian Stelter reports:

Abandoning a break-up plan it announced last month, Netflix said Monday morning that it had decided to keep its DVD-by-mail and online streaming services together under one name and one Web site.

The company admitted that it had moved too fast when it tried to spin-off the old-fashioned DVD service into a new company called Qwikster.

“We underestimated the appeal of the single web site and a single service,” Steve Swasey, a Netflix spokesman, said in a telephone interview. He quickly added: “We greatly underestimated it.”

*******************************************

How many self-inflicted wounds can a company take before its mortality is threatened? When it comes to Netflix, the question is taking on increasing relevance. The company that could do no wrong for the past two years first shot itself by announcing an onerous price increase without any real attempt to explain itself or soften the blow. The initial consequences of that decision came last week in the form of a 1 million subscriber downward revision and a 50 point drop in its stock price. Now Netflix has followed up with another bewildering move, announcing a re-branding and separation of its DVD by mail business as “Qwikster” complete with an independent web site. In my view this is another self-inflicted wound with even more serious implications.

When Netflix announced the price increase and discussed its intent to charge separately for DVDs, it offered a nonsensical and incomplete explanation for why it was doing so, and why now. In a new and contrite blog post from CEO Reed Hastings (and accompanying video), the more explicit explanation is “We realized that streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently and we need to let each grow and operate independently.”

Of course there are different economics and operational facets to streaming vs. DVD by mail. But guess what – subscribers don’t care. Netflix’s business is delivering entertainment as easily as possible, over any viable means and at the most attractive price. Rather than separating streaming and DVD, Netflix should be doing the exact opposite – integrating them as tightly as possible. Netflix has given a “we can’t walk and chew gum at the same time” explanation that is irrelevant to most subscribers, and only ends up forcing them to make unappealing decisions such as paying more, getting less or doing without.

For a team that made so many smart moves, it’s hard to pin down what’s going on here. Hastings offers a hint though in his post, saying that “Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly.” My sense is that Netflix has too quickly fallen in love with streaming, and forgotten how critical DVDs still are to their current and future success. I’ve been a broken record in pointing out that Netflix’s key competitive advantage relative to other pure streaming services (e.g. Hulu, Amazon, Vudu, etc.) is the CHOICE that the deep DVD catalog offers plus the complimentary CONVENIENCE that streaming has introduced. Without DVDs Netflix is going to going up against far bigger competitors without much of an advantage. As to Qwikster’s prospects, marketing a DVD only service in the digital media era? Good luck with that.

Worse still is that Netflix’s access to high-quality streaming content has never been more challenging. The Starz situation is illustrative of the conflicts and reluctance big media companies have in dealing with Netflix. The awakening of Amazon, Google, Walmart and Dish to the streaming businesses means far more vigorous bidding for streaming content going forward (and by the way these Netflix blunders are only going to drive up Hulu’s value given its exclusive lock on broadcast TV programs). Meanwhile pay-TV operators’ focus on TV Everywhere, and their willingness to pay retransmission consent fees, puts a further squeeze on Netflix acquiring streaming content out of the cable ecosystem. That Netflix didn’t understand these near-term content acquisition dynamics and therefore feel the need to keep DVDs well-integrated with streaming is an epic failure of strategic thinking.

Beyond the churn in the existing subscriber base that the price change and now the Qwikster introduction will bring, the other big issue is how they will affect new streaming subscriber acquisitions. As I pointed out last week, a thin streaming content offering will make it tougher for Netflix to acquire streaming subscribers at the same rate it has. That in turn could cause a material hiccup in Netflix’s financials that could frighten away prospective content partners concerned about Netflix’s ongoing viability, especially as the company shoulders huge payments for licensed content from Epix, Relativity and other current partners. A serious downward spiral could ensue.

Long-time Netflix skeptics are no doubt feeling some sense of vindication these days. But the reality is that Netflix’s current woes have less to do with external forces than with its own executive decision-making. Netflix increasingly looks like a company that has completely lost its focus and is lurching from one ill-considered decision to the next.

by Will Richmond

http://www.videonuze.com

Sony again delivers with 3D Head-Mounted display

Technology giant Sony has unveiled a head-mounted display that takes the wearer into a 3D cinema of videos, music and games.
Future vision? The HMZ personal 3D viewer is being targetted at people who prefer solitary entertainment rather than sitting in front of a television with family or friends

Resembling a futuristic visor, the £480 ($800) device is worn like a pair of chunky goggles and earphones in one.

Officially unveiled in Tokyo today, the HMZ – which stands for head-mounted display – is equipped with two 0.7in high definition organic light emitting diode (OLED) panels and 5.1 channel dynamic audio headphone

Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, a 3-D wearable gaming machine that went on sale in the 1990s, bombed, partly because of the bulky headgear required as well as the image being all red.

Sony’s latest product is far more sophisticated, delivering an experience that is as immersive as sitting in one of the best seats in a cinema.

It is not recommended for people 15 years old and younger because some experts believe overly stimulating imagery is not good for teenagers whose brains are still developing, according to Shigeru Kato, a Sony vice president.

On the plus side, consumers are growing more accustomed to 3D these days, with the arrival of 3D TVs and game machines.

The HMZ uses Sony’s own OLED screen, a relatively new kind of display that relays superb image quality and colour, compared to the more prevalent liquid crystal and plasma displays used in laptops and flat-panel TVs.

Mr Kato said the major challenge had been making a very small display without compromising image quality.

The HMZ is set to go on sale in Japan on November 11; a U.S. and European release could come as early as Christmas.

The HMZ – which stands for head-mounted display – displays footage that is crystal clear.

It is equipped with two 0.7in high definition organic light emitting diode (OLED) panels and 5.1 channel dynamic audio headphone.

The gadget enables the wearer to experience cinema-like viewing, equivalent to watching a 750-inch screen from 20 metres away,

The music video on display at a Sony showcase for reporters in Tokyo was of a Japanese singer and was so clear that it felt like peering into a dolls house in which a real-life tiny singer is moving.

It seems unlikely that most people – or even technology enthusiasts – will want to buy a product that involves sitting alone and wearing a little helmet.

For this reason, the HMZ might not be Sony’s long-awaited answer to Apple’s iPod or iPad, but just another quirky device packed with cutting-edge technology that is headed for a limited niche following.

Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, a 3-D wearable gaming machine that went on sale in the 1990s, bombed, partly because of the bulky headgear required as well as the image being all red.

Sony’s latest product is far more sophisticated, delivering an experience that is as immersive as sitting in one of the best seats in a cinema.

It is not recommended for people 15 years old and younger because some experts believe overly stimulating imagery is not good for teenagers whose brains are still developing, according to Shigeru Kato, a Sony vice president.

On the plus side, consumers are growing more accustomed to 3D these days, with the arrival of 3D TVs and game machines.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2032130/HMZ-T1-Sony-unveils-worlds-3D-head-mounted-display-immersive-sitting-cinema.html#ixzz1WflkevM6

Young People worldwide are addicted to media

COLLEGE PARK, Md., April 10 (UPI) — It doesn’t matter if a college student lives in the United States, Chile, China, Slovakia, Mexico or Lebanon — many are addicted to media, researchers say.

Susan D. Moeller of the University of Maryland and the director of International Center for Media & the Public Agenda says whether in developing countries or developed countries the findings are strikingly similar in how teens and young adults use media and how “addicted” they are to their cellphone, laptop or mp3 player.

The researchers and colleagues at the Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change asked about 1,000 students in 10 countries on five continents to give up all media for 24 hours and record their experiences.

The study found the students reacted almost identically to being unplugged from media and used virtually the same words to describe their reactions, including: fretful, confused, anxious, irritable, insecure, nervous, restless, crazy, addicted, panicked, jealous, angry, lonely, dependent, depressed, jittery and paranoid.

“Perhaps naively, we assumed that we would find substantial differences among the students who took part in this study,” Moeller says in a statement.

“After all, our partner universities come from very different regions and from countries with great disparities in economic development, culture and political governance.”

In short, the students were blind-sided by how much media have come to dominate their lives and their identity, Moeller says.

The study is at: http://theworldunplugged.wordpress.com/

Perhaps video gaming is good for a child’s mind

NPR’s Michelle Trudeau reports on a fascinating new study that suggests hours in front of the gaming console may be time well spent for developing minds.  What is not up for debate in the study are the consequences of exposing our children to an ultra-violent world of savagery and gruesome images such as CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS , a frame grab of which is depicted below.

Parents, the next time you fret that your child is wasting too much time playing video games, consider new research suggesting that video gaming may have real-world benefits for your child’s developing brain.

Daphne Bavelier is professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. She studies young people playing action video games. Having now conducted more than 20 studies on the topic, Bavelier says, “It turns out that action video games are far from mindless.”

Her studies show that video gamers show improved skills in vision, attention and certain aspects of cognition. And these skills are not just gaming skills, but real-world skills. They perform better than non-gamers on certain tests of attention, speed, accuracy, vision and multitasking, says Bavelier.

Seeing Shades Of Gray

Vision, for example, is improved in gamers. Specifically, the kind of vision called “contrast sensitivity,” that is, the ability to see subtle shades of gray.

“And this is a skill that comes in very handy if you’re driving in fog,” Bavelier says. “Seeing the car ahead of you is determined by your contrast sensitivity.” Skilled gamers also are able to see smaller type size than non-gamers on vision tests.

But Bavelier wanted to know which came first: Is better vision caused by playing action video games, or is better vision a skill that gamers bring to the table? Perhaps, Bavelier wondered, gamers already have sharp vision, and are thus good at action games and vision tests.

To check this out, Bavelier recruited non-gamers and trained them for a few weeks to play action video games. “At the end of their training,” Bavelier says, “they’re told, go back home. No more gaming. They’re not allowed to play any games.”

Then they came back into the lab every few months to have their vision re-checked.

Bavelier found that their vision remained improved, even without further practice on action video games. “We looked at the effect of playing action games on this visual skill of contrast sensitivity, and we’ve seen effects that last up to two years.”

Gamers, Bavelier has also found, have better attention than non-gamers — they stay focused. She gave gamers several tests to measure attention and found that gamers get less distracted by what came before and by events in their surroundings.

Laser Focus

They are able to detect, for example, new information coming at them faster. So as a result, they are more efficient. And Bavelier also says that gamers can switch from task to task much faster than non-gamers, making them better multitaskers.

Body Moving Games

Gaming may improve children’s cognitive skills, but it’s not without drawbacks: There’s a lot of evidence showing a correlation between gaming and childhood obesity. New devices — like Nintendo Wii, PlayStation Move or Kinect for Xbox 360 — might help game lovers get off the couch, but do games used with these systems show the same potential to improve a child’s aptitude for tests and other challenges?

Not really, says Daphne Bavelier, a brain and cognitive sciences researcher at the University of Rochester. “Those games typically don’t have the same effect [on the brain],” she says.

At the same time, she said some studies have found that exercise itself can have an impact on the cognitive skills of older adults, but she says that we don’t know yet whether the same is true for the younger set.

“We see that typically in people that don’t play action games, their reaction time [on tests of multitasking] lengthened by 200 milliseconds, which is something like 30 percent,” Bavelier says. “But in gamers, it lengthened only by 10 percent.”

Closing The Gender Gap

Brain researcher Jay Pratt, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, has studied the differences between men and women in their ability to mentally manipulate 3-D figures. This skill is called spatial cognition, and it’s an essential mental skill for math and engineering. Typically, Pratt says, women test significantly worse than men on tests of spatial cognition.

But Pratt found in his studies that when women who’d had little gaming experience were trained on action video games, the gender difference nearly disappeared.

After 10 hours of training, Pratt brought the women back to the lab and gave them the spatial cognition test again.

“And we found that the women improved substantially, and almost caught up to the men’s scores,” he says.

Pratt also investigated another area of spatial cognition called “the useful field of view,” which is essentially how much of the visual field a person can perceive at any given moment. In other words, as Pratt describes it, “How wide can you cast your net of attention?”

Typically, there are baseline differences between men and women on this test, with men performing significantly better. But Pratt found that training on action video games enabled women to significantly improve on this test of visual attention.

Pratt says playing these video games changes your ability to learn, and to find and integrate new information.

“Video game players are able to pick up very subtle, statistical irregularities in environments and use them to their advantage,” Pratt says. “And these same irregularities in environments are the things that help us guide our behaviors on a daily basis.”

Game Console Artists

To better understand how gamers acquire these non-gaming skills, neuroscientist Lauren Sergio, of York University in Toronto, looks inside the brain. She’s found an important difference between gamers and non-gamers in how and where the brain processes information. She likens skilled gamers to musicians.

“If you look at professional piano players, professional musicians, you see this phenomena where they don’t activate as much of their brain to do very complicated things with their hands that the rest of us need to do. And we found that the gamers did this as well.”

Skilled gamers mainly use their frontal cortex, according to Sergio’s fMRI studies. That’s an area of the brain specialized for planning, attention and multitasking. Non-gamers, in contrast, predominately use an area called the parietal cortex, the part of the brain specializing in visual spatial functions.

“The non-gamers had to think a lot more and use a lot more of the workhorse parts of their brains for eye-hand coordination,” Sergio says. “Whereas the gamers really didn’t have to use that much brain at all, and they just used these higher cognitive centers to do it.”

So the next time you despair that your child is immersed, yet again, in an action video game, remember: Gaming can improve some important skills.

Bavelier hopes that more action video games will be developed that train these skills without the violence found in the typical games available today. And all the researchers suggest that parents should limit their kids’ time on video games. Moderation, they say, is the key.

Microsoft makes a renewed effort in over-the-top streaming video

(Reuters) – Microsoft Corp has held talks with media companies to license TV networks for a new online pay-television subscription service through devices such as its Xbox video game console, two people familiar with the plans told Reuters.

The software giant’s possible push into the television business comes as Google Inc, Apple Inc and Netflix have jostled for a seat at the table of television’s future — a main topic of discussion at the Reuters Global Media Summit to be held this week.

The maker of the Windows operating system has proposed a range of possibilities in these early talks including creating a “virtual cable operator” delivered over the Internet for which users pay a monthly fee.

Other options include using the Xbox to authenticate existing cable subscribers to watch shows with enhanced interactivity similar to how pay TV operators have sought to do over the Web, said these people.

Microsoft is also exploring the possibility of creating content silos and selling more individual channels directly such as an HBO or Showtime. It already has Walt Disney Co’s ESPN on the XBox Live online service for example.

These people said a service may not arrive for another 12 months, but early discussions have been productive.

Microsoft said it does not comment on rumor or speculation. The people involved in the talks asked not to identified as the discussions were confidential.

News of Microsoft’s plans come as the pay-television industry has sought to allay investor concerns that consumers are fleeing expensive subscription packages for cheaper online services operated by companies such as Netflix Inc and Hulu, which both charge $7.99 per month for streamed shows and movies. The phenomenon is called “cord-cutting.”

The worry is that so-called over-the-top services could undermine the lucrative cable TV industry, whose dual-revenue stream model — cable networks such as ESPN are paid carriage fees by pay TV operators and also earn revenue from advertisers — has made pay-TV one of the most resilient sectors during the economic recession.

But programmers would welcome new types of competition to the cable and satellite companies, senior media executives said.

“We think the more competition the better, we will price and package it in such a way that we still make the dual revenue stream,” said one of the people who spoke to Reuters. “We could probably charge more for interactive advertising.”

Microsoft has long held ambitions to be a major player in the TV business and has previously invested in interactive television initiatives including Web TV and MSN TV set-top box software.

Its latest plans include offering interactivity to engage viewers through social media, interactive advertising and motion control technology, say people who have seen early demonstrations.

Microsoft has bet on new “gesture” technology that lets users of its Xbox, who buy a camera accessory called the Kinect, control on-screen functions using voice to launch channels and waving arms to fast-forward or rewind videos on ESPN.

The Redmond, Washington, company is said to be mulling feedback it has received from programmers including the expense of such a plan but it is not likely to roll out a service in the next 12 months, said one person.

The market to determine the future of television distribution and technology has accelerated over the past year.

Google has already launched Google TV, an enhanced Web-TV service with partners including Sony Corp televisions and Logitech set-top boxes. While Google has also announced Time Warner Inc’s Turner Networks as a programing partner, it is not yet planning to offer a full suite of cable networks in the near future.

Apple has also held talks with programmers, but faced resistance industry-wide over its plans to offer a lower-cost subscription TV plan, people familiar with the talks have said. Apple has begun to offer 99-cent TV show rentals for a limited number shows through News Corp’s Fox and Disney.

Holographic Video moves closer to reality

Scientists say they have taken a big step toward displaying live video in three dimensions — a technology far beyond 3-D movies and more like the “Star Wars” scene in which a ghostly Princess Leia image pleads, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

In that classic movie, the audience sees her back before a new camera perspective shows her face. Such a wraparound view of a moving image was just movie-trick fantasy in the 1977 film, but now?

“It is actually very, very close to reality. We have demonstrated the concept that it works. It’s no longer something that is science fiction,” said Nasser Peyghambarian of the University of Arizona.

Actually, the results he and colleagues report in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature look more like a slide show than a video. In experiments, the technology displayed a new image only every two seconds. That’s only about one-sixtieth as fast as the system would need to produce true video.

The image also gave only a 45-degree range of viewing angles because the original was shot with 16 cameras in an arc.

But Peyghambarian figures that with more development — and more cameras — his team can produce a true 3-D video screen that might reach living rooms in perhaps a decade. And you wouldn’t need those funny glasses to enjoy it.

Apart from the possibilities for entertainment, it might allow doctors in multiple places around the world to collaborate on live surgery, he said. If the screen were placed flat on a table, they could get a 360-degree view by walking around, just as if the patient were lying there.

While the 3-D image would not actually be projected into the air, that’s how it would appear to a person looking into the screen.

Other possibilities, Peyghambarian said, including eye-catching ads at shopping malls and a technique to enable designers of cars or airplanes to make changes more quickly. Live 3-D video could also help the military train troops, he said.

We see objects by perceiving the light that bounces off them. Peyghambarian’s technology uses holograms, two-dimensional images that reconstruct the light that would have bounced off a physical object, making it look 3-D.

In contrast, technology used for 3-D movies like “Avatar” or the election-night “hologram” of a CNN reporter in 2008 produces images that don’t show different views from different angles, as a genuine hologram or a real object does, Peyghambarian said.

Many people have seen holograms of still images. The Arizona group is one of maybe half a dozen around the world that are trying to move that technology into 3-D video, said V. Michael Bove Jr. of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab.

Bove said several groups, including his own, have in fact produced such videos, achieving the magic rate of 30 frames a second. But those displays are only about the size of a postcard or smaller, he said, and one big challenge is how to make the display bigger.

The Arizona group uses a plastic plate that stores and displays an image until another image is written electronically on it. That approach might someday allow for much bigger images, said Bove, who is collaborating with the Arizona researchers but did not participate in the new study.

Peyghambarian said he now gets an image every two seconds on a 4-by-4-inch device. His team also has a 1-foot-square plate, but that takes longer to replace images.

He would like to scale up to plates about 6 or 8 feet square to show people at full size, so they could appear at meetings without having to actually show up.

His work was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the military.

Bove compared the state of holographic video research to that of developing television about 80 years ago. Different groups are taking different approaches, and it is not clear which technology will prove best, he said.

In any case, he said, the Arizona system “produces bright, sharp holographic images…. This thing is beautiful.”

Source: Detroit Free Press

3D Arcade Games emerge in Japan

SI Electronics has announced it is developing an arcade board that will support 3D displays – wait for it – without the need for wearing any 3D glasses.

The news comes during a time when manufacturers are showing off their prototype tablets, some of which are 3D, at the electronics fair, IFA 2010, in Berlin.

The board was originally announced at the AOU Amusement Expo and will use a new internally developed processor. According to SIE the processor will allow glasses-free 3D displays and still output full HD visuals while retaining a small footprint and low cost.

A video of this new arcade board will be shown at the Kaga Amusement booth at the Amusement Machine Show in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday.

source: hdguru3d.com

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